Non-Religious Celebration of Christmas

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I never thought I would willingly and consciously arrange for Child of Mine to celebrate Christmas at my own volition. Not since I quit organized religion umpteen years ago! But, that is before I became a parent.

Before I realized that parenting is a totally new era in one’s life; of undoing one’s beliefs and comfort zone. Before I realized that parenting is not about you!

This year, I am gonna let Child of Mine experience a Christmas celebration, as part of my parenting.

On one hand, parenting is scripted. There are tons of books for new parents – the indisputable What to Expect series, starts When You’re Expecting…going all the way into the Second Year. It is so influential, that it was ‘canonized’ into a movie released in 2012, starring Cameron Diaz.

The alternative new parenting scripts include lessons that mothers of the Expectant mother/parents eagerly share, either unsolicited or unwelcome. Plus, Old Wives Tales, passed on through generations to expectant mothers and the new parents. Not to forget that, if the expectant parent(s) was/were born around little children — siblings, cousins, nieces or nephews, or friends children, The Parenting Script is available through first-hand observation.

Parenting, we tend to think, is easy peezy, right? Plenty of resources —reading all the books, listening to ‘experts’ advice and watching other parents! You swear to an entire Parenting Script of NEVERS!

- You vow never to repeat the ‘mistakes’ other parents commit against their children. 
- You will not allow an unruly child in your household. 
- You will not bend your rules to accommodate your child’s needs or demands. 
- You will not introduce your child to any systems of socialization that you do not adhere to, including religion, entertainment, schooling or relationships. 
- You will not babysit a five-year old child!

And many more!

Until one day, you actually become a parent! And wonder, whatever happened to your self-avowed script, the script passed down unto you by parents before you, the script you wrote when you were expecting, and the script you re-wrote as a new parent. Some among us even wrote our own What to Expect: The Birth Plan.

We also had our post-birth parenting scripted in our heads, laid out well-tested rules and regulations to maintain order, transmit culture and ‘good moral character’ into all children in our household.  Then, one wonder why you are making so many compromises to accommodate your child’s comfort over yours!

But none of the tolerable comforts include intimacy with organized religion or becoming indolent.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not have any problem with the religious. In fact, my best friend – RIP was religious. She is one of the very few people I know, beside my mom, and my mom’s father, that practiced the humanity of religion. She was more human than religious. She was never judgmental, yet she subscribe to the new religious revivalism. The pentecostals, baptists, and the whole nine yard, who scare you and ostracize you, that if you do not convert to JC, you will go to hell fire. Or that Allah is the only true path to afterlife, and there is “Judgement Day”, when everybody is gonna be judged according to their religious practices.

See, I come from a family of multiple religious beliefs. My mother’s father came from a Catholic family, but converted to Protestantism, growing up with a Protestant family. He went on to become a Reverend, serving the Protestant Church. Two of my sisters are married to Muslims; one of my sister’s ex is Catholic; my paternal family has plenty of other religions that I can only relate to old school protestantism and veganism. So, religious pluralism was never an option for me, nor religious tolerance a luxury; it was the humane way of life.

Religiosity is rife in Uganda, where I come from. There is a prevailing expectation that everyone is religious, and anyone who says s/he is not religious —that is— does not subscribe to any of the Judeo-Chiristain or Islamic religions—is often frown upon. Yet, there is a laissez-faire approach to religious tolerance.

It is not uncommon to hear the Catholic church bells toll at the top of the hour, or the Muslim call for prayer every morning and evening. Yet, the loud noise from these places of worship has not caused a societal revolt, but taken for granted as part of social living. To some, like my mother, the morning call for prayer from the neighborhood mosque has served as her wake-up alarm clock, since I was a child. Similar to the morning cock crow in the villages.

But in America and other western societies that count themselves as “civilized,” such loud ‘noise’ cannot be tolerate, as part of social living! Or perhaps there is selective tolerance of noise in different parts. For instance where I live, the church bells doth toll, yet it is unfathomable to imagine a tolerance of the Muslim Call for Prayer!

Exposure is fundamental to nurturing tolerance of others. My siblings and I attended Catholic schools, even though we were raised Protestant. We went along with the Catholic rituals at school—going to mass, reciting the rosary, observing lent period, and anything catholicism required of us.IMG_3347

None of us grew larger or smaller because of practicing a religion outside our beliefs, None of us felt indoctrinated and coopted, because outside school, we were still Protestant and went to Protestant Church. Plus, to reiterate, I have catholic family, whom I love regardless of their religion, and who I do not have the luxury of discriminating against.

Coming to America changed my relationship with religion. I ran away from religion, as soon as it started confusing me. I had never imagined that one can be religious, yet pray and support dropping bombs on others.

I don’t understand religion that welcomes strangers, yet excludes those who do not profess the same religion. I do not understand a religion, that also preaches love, then practices hate and prejudice. I do not understand a religion, where “sisterhood” is built on the notion of religious belief, not family connection or our common humanity!

Although I must say that I have been embraced by some religious communities — among the Mormons, Mennonites and Catholics—whose religious convictions is informed by a sense of community and a shared humans. I have felt very comfortable among them, never felt judged, ostracized or evangelized to, but welcomed and supported as a human being.

Coupled with my upbringing, I have remained open to embrace the religious, and allow my child get a glimpse into the various religions. We participate in religious festivities with family and friends.

But, I am not about to push him into any form of religious indoctrination. I realized that his family was not willing to incorporate him into their religious festivities because of his non-religious status, and stopped trying to get him introduced to their beliefs. On the contrary, my family takes a laissez-faire approach to him or myself, recognizing that we are more than our religious proclamations!

Still, religion is not too far from Child’s mind; he is learning about various religion from school teachers. Forget about separation of church and state, in public schools! We are talking about PA, not in NYC, where a school principal recently banned Santa, The Pledge of Allegiance, replaced Thanksgiving with “Harvest Festival,” and Christmas Celebration with “Winter Celebration!

Recently, curiosity caught the best of my Child,

COM: "Mommy, what is my religion?"
Me: "You don't have a religion."
COM: "Why don't I have a religion?"
Me: "Because I do not have a religion."
COM: "Can you check my DNA and find out what my religion is?"
Me: "So, I can know your religion from your DNA?"
COM: "Yes."
Me: "Child, you are clearly a Pennsylvanian."
COM: "Noooo! I want to be Ugandan."
Me: "Ok, you are that, too!"
[Thinking to self: Oh! It gets worse...Religiosity gets worse in Uganda!"]
😶😶

Still, we will not be subscribing to any organized religious gathering or denomination soon! But, we will accept any invitations for celebration. What better time than now in December, when we welcome Santa and his the elves, Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer, al bearing gifts on Christmas Day! While we do not put up any trees, decorate or sing carols, he gets opportunities of making trees with his Cub Scout Pack and makes Christmas wreaths and talks about JC in school.

At home, we are making gingerbread cookies, dressing up in green and red, and eagerly await Santa’s gifts under the chimney. I have already taken him around our neighbor to watch Christmas decorations and musical shows stationed in yards. No religious recitals! No religious talk!

And we will spiritually join our family in celebrating Christmas, as they do every year, and the years he was in Uganda. I doubt he remembers the celebrations in Uganda when he was three and four years. I want Child to learn that some people celebrate Christmas because of their religious beliefs. I strongly believe that exposure to religion, or other social experiments/systems, breeds understanding, and breeds religious tolerance.

The religious intolerance, witnessed among some Americas, is symbolic of when religion is treated as an “exclusive club” open only to the believers. Religion in America is largely about exclusion than inclusion of those who do not profess the same faith. Those who convert from one religion to another tend to ridicule the religion they left. Some religious groups are not receptive to curious non-religious, nor encourage partaking in the celebration of customer of other religions.

Contrary to my experience growing up with religion in Uganda. Eid Christmas and Easter are all designated as public holidays. Unlike America, only Christian holidays are accorded public recognition — Christmas is conveniently scheduled as “Winter Break,” and  Easter as “Spring Break,” celebrated as days-off from work, and big shopping weekends at commercial establishments. A few establishments, employers and cities would grant “a day-off” for Muslims to celebrate Eid; in New York City, Jewish holidays and recently the Muslim Eid are designated as days-off in the school calendar. Of course the atheists and satanists aint celebrating all these religious display, in their faces!

But I want my own child growing up, with an understanding that, while mommy is non-religious, some people celebrate religious holidays. I also want him to understand that there is nothing wrong with the religious and non-religious, and none is better or more knowing than the other; they all belong to the same global society.

In fact mommy’s family is religious, and mommy friends who are religious. Mommy’s best friend who died was religious. But Auntie Jude and mommy are not religious.

I want to know that parenting involves setting goals, and exercising flexibility when raising our children as social beings. Most importantly, I want Child to know that what binds us together is our common humanity. We should be good and strive to do good to others, not because we are bound by some religious doctrine or conviction, but because it is the human thing to do.

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Fear is Our Biggest Impediment

For many of us, fear is our biggest impediment!

Fear grips us, cripples us, and enslaves us!being different

 

We are afraid of the dark
We are afraid of heights
We are afraid of adventure
We are afraid of the unknown

We are afraid of criticism
We are afraid of failure
We are afraid of trying
We are afraid of dreaming

We are afraid of loneliness
We are afraid of attention
We are afraid of loving
We are afraid of affection

We are afraid of being talked about
We are afraid of not being talked to
We are afraid of being ignored
We are afraid of not being priority

We are afraid of dependence
We are afraid of begging
We are afraid of giving
We are afraid sharing

We are afraid of disappointment
We are afraid of embarrassment
We are afraid of getting hurt
We are afraid of pain

We are afraid of helpers
We are afraid of solicitation
We are afraid of donations
We are afraid of alms

But, let us not be afraid of reaching out
Asking for worthy help
Love regardless

Let us embrace loneliness
Live endlessly
Life with all its uncertainties

Let us give unconditionally
Against all odds,

Let us break the encumbrance of fear!

2014 in a Wrap

An article in Chicago Tribune profiles former Stanford Dean Lythcott-Haims, among other writers like Jessica Lahey (“The Gift of Failure”) and Jennifer Senior (“All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood”), speaking to “Helicopter Parents” to Let It Go! Let the children be, children! Have a life of your own! You can also call them “Socca moms” or Drill Surgeons, they are in the face of their children, and anyone involved with their children.

Lythcott-Halms cites statistics on the rise of depression and other mental and emotional health problems among the nation’s young people, as justification that, perhaps Helicopter Parents are doing more harm than good, by micromanaging their children’s lives, trying to churn them into super-high achievers. Points to the growing concern that many young people are “adultscents” stuck in “waithood”!

I wrote recently about Parenting on a Shoe-String of Hope, that, regardless of how much we invest into our kids, there is no guarantee that they will turn out with the discipline, commitment, self-drive, kindness and love, we so strive to impart in them and desire! Parenting is not a game, yet it is a “Hit and Miss”!

Now, we have more parents, parent psychologists and scholars sharing their experiences and views on how we, as a society of parents, are fairing in grooming our children, the critical thinkers, national builders and leaders of after years. Or could it be “now years,” since children no longer waiting till adulthood to woo their societies as inventors, leaders, scholars, business gurus, artists, and employers.

At least children are gaining some recognition, that they are not just diaper-clad, video game, Minecrafters, demanding their “me-time” and “me-decide,” while expecting for papa and mama to make their bed, provide a food and monthly allowances, after-college rent, and plane tickets to global vacation destinations! Perhaps, here, we could boast that our “Helicopter parenting” has paid off, or are the ‘mature’ ones not products of helicopter parenting?

But, are we “Helicopter Parenting” out of unfounded paranoia, or are we justified?
Fear of the “known unknown” — rapists, kidnappers, murderers, has driven us to safeguard our children much more. I would argue that they rise of the known-unknowns could be an outcrop of the diminishing family size, progressively excluding aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and grandparents [referred to in Western Culture as “Extended Family”], and collapsing into a nuclear family of mom, dad, plus one or two children. Additionally family is increasingly “private and estranged from community relationships and neighborhood watch.

Back in the days, a child belonged to the community, which kept a watchful eye, disciplined, freely interacted and played with one another. Today, our children need [in]formal permission, an invitation and scheduled playdate with the neighbor’s child. We are scared of our neighbor(s), do not always know our neighbor, and have replaced innocent trust with restraint. The neighbor [though not all neighbors] is no longer looking out to protect but harm our children and restrict our children’s play.

Ironically, the “fear of thy neighbor,” has undermined our much celebrated “neighborhood watch,” diminished social responsibility to protect our kids, instead churning out more predators with harmful and malicious intent and practices in our neighborhoods. We as neighbors are distancing ourselves further away from each another, with a diminishing obligation to commit and love one other.

Nothing speaks to the shrinking “modern family” size, values and protection than the ‘disappearance’ of blood relatives in raising our children. Not even the unconditional support of family in raising our children, can be taken for granted anymore! Grandparents and younger siblings are no longer “automatic babysitters” for our children; they have lives to live! Growing up, I babysat my nieces and nephews, supported my older siblings households without question, protest or bitterness.

Today, the true meaning of family is not a social network you can take for granted, or a social guarantor of love and support, unconditionally. Family is now a site of wary, each on collision course of survival for the fittest. Parents are struggling to stay afloat on their own, as the main guardians of their children, sometimes separately.

The expectation that every parent contributes to parenting, regardless and with no emphasis on how much overt love was expressed toward the children. Now, the phenomenon of absentee father is a huge blight on parenting, and the survival and proper functioning of families, The absentee father is not only non-custodial, but also pops in and out of his child’s life at own convenience, or lives-in with both child and child’s mother, but is more focused on his own life than family welfare.

Thus, the rise of the “Helicopter Parent(s),” not primarily to outpace others children in a survival for the fittest, but also to compensate for the burden and responsibility of raising children as single parent and/or without the additional support of relatives and society. Helicopter parents are as much concerned about the future success of our children and ability to stay afloat in a cut-throat world.

Yet, we are constant bombarded with parenting practices, suggestive but guilt-tripping us, national laws and policies to adhere to, ‘concerned neighbors’ and ‘social watchers’ quick to condemn our parenting skills, and tell on us to the authorities, because in their view, we are not good parents.

Parenting on a Shoe-String of Hope!

Parenting is not for the faint-hearted! Bet you have heard that plenty of times …!

If you have not experienced parenting as yet, I am not trying to dissuade you. But, you heard me! Buckle up! It is going down.

Before I became a parent, I thought parents were such selfish friends, “All they cared for, talked about and had eyes on were their children!” 

Then I became a parent! In my early years as a parent, I scoffed at anyone who said, “I do not want to be a parent.” Or “I did not have parental instincts.”  “Nobody is born with parental instincts,” I thought. But we all try to do the “natural thing”.

Now I am silently terrified for them. Everytime someone tells me, they are joining the “Club of Parents,” I quietly mourn for them, “They are digging their own graves,” so I think. What the hell are they getting themselves into?

It is a hard knock life to be a parent! Definitely tougher for single parents, but not suggesting that two parents living together, and sharing responsibility, have it any easier. It is not a game, yet it is a “hit and miss”. COM on Community Service

Parenting is the toughest job in the world, one which you can never take a break or run away from. Not saying, that nobody takes a break or runs away forever. But I trust runway parents are haunted by the indifference toward their children.

Even parents taking a break, not indefinitely, but for a minute to rejuvenate, recoup or pay attention to one’s other life demands, beat themselves up for “taking time away from their children.”

Little wonder, parents have delegate their job to others, since time immemorial. From the royals taking on slaves and servants to care for their infants, families hiring nannies, as live-ins or 24-hour daycare establishments, or utilizing the help of family and friends as babysitters.

Some of the controversial parenting stories I have heard involved white women in America and white and Afrikaans women in South Africa using black nursing mothers to breastfeed their children because “they did not want their breasts to sag.”

There is a more controversial case of Amanda America Dickson, born of a non-consenting a slave woman to a white planter in Georgia. According to the story, the white planter went against the prevailing racial climate to force a black woman to have a child for him, desperate for a family of his own.

But the biological mother was never allowed ownership of her daughter. She was raised primarily by the white father and his mother [the paternal grandmother], nor mother-daughter bonding, to avoid societal alienation and protect the, “Woman of Color, Daughter of Privilege: Amanda America Dickson, 1849-1893,” according to Kent Leslie named.

Amanda never knew that the woman who lived as a house-slave [put more crudely, called “house-nigger] in her father’s house was in fact her biological mother, until her father and grandmother declined the marriage proposal of her white suitor. They were afraid that a “Black” [literally] family secret would run out of the bag, and ruin their social standing in antebellum Georgia.

I offer these examples to illustrate the complicatedness of parenting, amidst life’s uncertainties, insecurities, under-appreciation, limited resources and social pressures. Yet the toughest job must continue; for many people, on a “Shoe-String of Hope”.

When the resources at your disposal – social, monetary or emotional – are limited, you still have to keep hoping that life will smile on you. A friend told me soon after I became a mother, “Children bring blessings.” Thankfully, I experience that phrase everyday of my life as a parent, doing double shift solo – momma and popsy.

Whenever I am in doubt, whether I will afford a smile, a new pair of shoes, after-school activities, or pick child up from the school bus in time, the stars align brightly for me! There is an excess penny in the bank to pay for Tang-Soo-Do, my neighbor is home to help pick up child till I get back home or child wakes up with a wide smile and big dreams, turning my gray into blue.

Whenever, I self-doubt whether the future will bring appreciation, winning, greatness, excellence, I am take comfort in knowing that I give a lot of myself to embrace the challenge of parenting. No, parenting was not my first calling; in fact, never my calling. Still, I have given a lot of me to ensure that COM has a semblance of normality growing up.

That perhaps, by putting him over and above my interests, I can lessen the potential undesirable effects of being raised by a single mother. Perhaps he will ‘escape’ the pigeon hole into which the world has pre-cast him, from childhood. Perhaps, he will be one step ahead, of his pack, and strive to be the best. The physical visibility of mother’s love, and her presence, will warm him to the beauty, kindness and goodness of life, amidst life’s strife, human suffering, and struggles.

Yet, the gambling continues! As parents, we have no guarantee that all the investment we invest in our children will pay off. Whether they will turn out to be disciplined, committed, self-driven, kind and loving.

Are we parenting too much that, they will not be able to go it alone? Or they will give up on the values and skills we pushed onto them to achieve, in the name of preparing them to be the best and conquer the world?

Are we breeding “adultscents”, stuck in perpetual “waithood”, too afraid of failure, that they will resist taking bold steps of responsibility, in case they turn out like their parents? We have been there; running away from the “mishaps of our parents and older siblings,” ending up right in the same shit-hole. Not to say every does….Obama seems to be doing great…though we cannot deny the vicious cycle that grips plenty of others.  For now, we shall keep battle the best we can….Parenting on a Shoe-String of Hope!

Life is Not All About Work…..

Suddenly, a wave of sadness engulfed me….for a moment, as I sat down in the Library with Child of Mine [who by now you know I refer to simply as, COM], pondering over “The Absurdity of my Life”. Well, perhaps it is not all absurd, thus the quotations. I have COM to keep me moving, thinking, believing, and brightening up my days. I have no more tears; they dried out since taking on COM. Now I cry dead tears, mourn internally, all the while, wearing a smile around him. How can I allow him to see me break down? I need to keep his hopes up. OR so, I tell myself.

Ok, I take that back; in fact I have tears, but not for my absurdity. I cry about anything related to him. For instance, I cry when I think of him returning to school, I cry when I put him on the bus on the first day of school, and on some mornings. Sometimes I cry when I wake up before him, and have to leave him to go out for a run. I cry, at the thought of him growing up and going off to college. I cry thinking about whether I am a good mother to him, and if I will raise him to be an astute guy.

Today was one of those days. The heatwave got to us, bringing a rush of responses in my head, in case one asked about me. “Well, my life isn’t worth sharing. The absurdity does not make sense. Yes, I have this and that experience.…plenty to talk about. I have a recollection of plenty of exciting words, with thoughts, energies…powerful additions to life, society and to the human experience. But it is also in a web, a sea of complicatedness. I will spare you the details, but I imagined myself responding to anyone who cared to ask about me.

Then I remembered the words a corporate mogul on a TV show I watched, “Life is Not all About Work”. Totally stolen from my thoughts!

By work, he meant, the hustle and bustle, the paper-chase, growing corporate bodies, stocks, and financial superstardom.

Life is also about the paying deeper attention to our relationships, smelling a rose, listening to “the dull and ignorant,” and taking inspiration from other people’s miseries.

Life is Not All About Work reaffirms to me that, perhaps I am doing the right thing, spending plenty of time with COM, chaperoning him to Day Camp and Overnight Weekend Camping, entertaining his young buddies and relatives with, impromptu “picnic at the park”, summer birthdays in the park, swimming at the pool, or offering myself to babysit and take care not just COM but the same number of children like my mother had. Either because their parents are not available, need an extra hand, or they are dealing with ill loved ones.  FotorCreated SUmmer 2015

In all these challenges, engagements and sacrifices, I draw plenty of lessons, and comfort in a seemingly bleak tomorrow. I am also re-learning to rely on my biggest assets, my strengths, stamina, optimism, creativity, social upbringing, mental forage, hunger for learning, reading and sharing, intellectualism, networking skills, love for the outdoors, adventure and the sprit of giving.

I take time to recall plenty of lessons my mother instilled in me, directly or by default. Among which are:

  • Better to keep your mouth shut. No one will blame you for thoughts unsaid.

– Those obsessed with respect, overwhelm them.

– One without shame is a fool. [She attributed this to my grandmother]

– In another person’s house, your choice is to slave. 

Obviously, there are better English phrases/proverbs with similar meaning to mine above. However, I prefer to present mine in a literal interpretation of my mother’s words. For instance the last one could be rephrased as, “A beggar has no choice” or “Silence is Golden” or “Respect Thy Master”…She is a great inspiration to what I do, what I pay attention to and my commitments.

I am grateful that I am spending time with my son, and providing him plenty of opportunities beyond what money can facilitate. As the summer draws to a close, I reflect to all the accomplishments we have made together or with family and friends. With a very humble budget, but a big heart and strong drive. At the start of his First Grade year, one of his “Resolutions” from a class exercise read, “I wish to go on vacation this year.” I am grateful that I was able to make that happen for him.

On his last day of school, I got him off the bus and onto the bus to New York City, and train to Legoland Discovery Center. We spent our first weekend in New York State, between Westchester County and Brooklyn, NYC. Phenomenon experience, plenty of excitement in one weekend!

At Legoland, we built bridges and apartment blocks, built and raced cars, flew on a jet. He spent plenty of time in a bouncy house, while I spent some “Me” time reading and fb’king. We spent quality time hopping from
store to store, including playing with electronics, in ‘his favorite store of all time,’ the Apple Store, while I charged my phone.

The weekend came to an end with a trip to visit cousins in Brooklyn, went to Brooklyn Bridge, Park, walked on top of rocks, eat free food, and enjoyed a free Skloosh. Moreover, COM had a chance of going on a whirlwind through NYC subway, from Port Authority to Time Square to Penn Station. He quickly learned that, “NYkers are not friendly to others. They do not say hello.” COM is smart!

Out of New York, went off to Palmyra, PA, Lancaster County, to visit my family, since my mom was visiting us here from down south (Georgia).  Exciting, quality and fun family time: Hershey Chocolate World and Harrisburg, PA State Capitol, and ran through the corn fields of Lancaster County. Back to the Poconos, and before long, another road trip to Accokeek, MD, on July 4th Weekend, for a cousin’s birthday. I, got to ‘sneak away’ to meet old friends in Wash/DC.


While it has been a period of pre-longed sickness in the family, it became an opportunity to shine through, unexpectedly. I have stepped up to support the family, torn apart, depressed and absorbed in caring for the sick. Turning lemons into lemonades, by practicing my momma adorned skills of patience, humanity and caring for others. Kids have especially been central to my heart and hands, as well as the entire household.

Impromptu picnic in the park, just because we had salad, watermelon, pitta bread to make pizza. Watched the kids play in the park, and made sure they funNED out together, as cousins get to do all summer long at grandma’s house. More fun picnic in the yard, swimming at the pool, playing board games, putting on “The Big Game”, painting girls’ nails and playing games boy play, Hello  Wii U!

Summer bebe means summer birthdays in the park, our an annual fete, with plenty of friends and family. The Ninja within us came out! And if you are a wonderful, sociable, kind and humble child like mine, you get more birthday party invites, with free pass into Crayola Factory! More adventures, more friends, and more exciting moments.

In other news, Scouting just got more fun, with a week-long Day Camp at Camp Minsi, where we got to try out new stuff for the first time: archery, slingshot, building pirate’s treasure chest and telescope, playing cannon balls with marbles, sail-a-ho, making square knot, treasure hunting and fishing, and swimming in the lake (COM has swam in pools, oceans and seas before).

Oh yeah! Even got a chance to “raise the colors” (National Flag); how cool is that! Then weekend overnight camping at Knoebels Camping Ground, with Saturday spent jumping on and off rides at Knoebels Amusement Resort, with new-found friends.

We participated in the Summer Reading Program at our local youth library, and read our way to the “Wall of Fame”, scooped plenty of badges and gifts for 1,000+ reading minutes. Very little of ‘Paws n Pages’, since one of the lovely therapy dogs COM reads to got put down [shhh], and another underwent an operation that puts him out for recovery for a while.

In athletics, we added a new sport, Soccer, and successfully completed the YMCA Summer Soccer Camp with friends and new friends. Learning never stops! And Yes! We are now blue belt in Tae-Kwon-Do, going onto Red stripe, and before long, We will be Red belt. What a year!

No, we are not financially wealthy; we are simply committed to engaging, achieving and growing. Hopefully, COM will continue with some or all of these activities for many more years into the future. Hopefully, it will influence his commitments in life, and future life trajectory.

Throughout these experiences, I am learning and recalling many lessons, and gaining more appreciation for Small is Beautiful!

Never Say Never, also continuously reverberates in my ears, especially now that I am a mother. Eight years ago, I would never have imagined myself hanging out, or letting COM hang with gun-wielding folks.

But Time is Of The Essence! I attribute this kind of growth to becoming a mother. Though, thanks in part to Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, where I learned about the “Role of Force [in International Relations]”.

Whereas I still do not subscribe to the notion that force justifies the use guns, at Fletcher I gained a renewed familiarity with those who take to guns to resolve disagreements. I still do not understand why, a five-year old kid gets a BB gun as a birthday gift from the parents.

Still, I am no longer locking myself away from opposites, nor jettisoning those friendship away from COM, as long as it is clearly understand, “We do not entertain guns as toys or seek to gain expertise in shooting with a gun. Archery or Sling Shots, we shall try. Fotorcollage Summer 20152

Most importantly, I am learning to appreciate every slow-down in professional advancement as opportunities for grow in other areas, such as health, fitness and wellness. I wake up very early in the morning to work-out and keep myself in good mental and physical health. No wonder, my child thinks I am a “runner by profession”.

My runs are my avenues for releasing unwanted toxins, creating new ideas and running away from sadness. On one of my morning runs, a thought came to my mind, Never think of your challenges or life choices as a failure, but life’s lessons and trajectories. Otherwise, you will spend your life, comparing yourself to others, and growing bitterness. You will also lose sight of the important achievements and milestones you make, when making hard choices and while making life adjustments.

Of puppy crushes and hard-on – Let’s Talk About “S” Bebe

Parents, guardians and educators of young minds, let’s imagine this happened to any of you. I will not disclose my sources…but as a mother of a seven-year old, it gives me cause to worry.

Here we go…retold in [first person]

“I am wounded. Terribly wounded!!

I just had a talk with a six-year old about sex, crushes and hard-ons. Can you believe it? No! I cannot. I am crying, internally. My tear glands are not doing me a favor; I want to sob.
M. I still have butterflies about Leigh [Not real name].” [Followed by shy giggles.
“How do you feel when you have butterflies about her?” I asked
“When I think about her, my pee pee gets hard. Right now, my pee pee is hard”

That’s the moment I panicked, and realized that I need help. 
“Well, I am not a man, and I do not know what to do when your pee pee gets hard,” I responded to him. I am going to ask a friend, who is a man and a teacher for advice on what to do.”

Hitherto, I was playing it cool and silly. In fact, I might have stirred him up on his ’silly’ infatuation, and resultant “hard-on”. For one, he’s had a ‘girlfriend’ since pre-K, that he dropped for a new one in Kindergarten, I bet there’s gonna be one from 1st Grade. 2) I imagined, his ‘love story’ was similar to mine back when I was five.

When I was in Kindergarten, I got myself duped by a grown man that he was going to marry me. The next day, I came home from school, took a shower, packed all my bags and waited outside our family home for Mr. Y to pick me up and take me off to his home, our new marital home [Never mind that he was probably over twenty years of age]. Not only didn’t he show up that day, it took a while before he showed up again on our block.  So, I had to face repeated humiliation from my bigger brother and sister, mocking me for dropping out of school in Kindergarten, and going off to get married. I bet Mr. Y did not even give [the marriage] a second thought, because it was joke to him. He probably forgot his “proposal” as soon as he’d stepped away from our neighborhood.

Interestingly, I grew up without a love for men or marriage, not because Mr. Y stood me up. My own family drama speaks volumes about this. But that is a story to be told and re-told many times elsewhere. 

Anyway, this time I freaked out, and wrote to a friend, who is both male and a teacher. A bonus, he is an American, with a multi-cultural background, who has lived and taught in several countries outside the United States. I feel he would be best positioned to give a male opinion, but also with a cultural context to it. I do not have personal experience of little male boys  talking about “crushes and hard-ons” to their parents.

As someone from a different generation, I am quite slow to catch up with this seemingly “hyper-sexual” generation. Young minds of today know a lot about sex than I knew at their age, and perform more sex than I did back in the days. Thanks to the abundant ‘open’ and [il]liberal media, which is exposing to children as young as three to daily love stories – watch Madagascar, The Lion King, Lego Movie, Incredibles, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Frozen, you name it! There’s a love story with someone getting married, heartbroken or kissing, followed by eewws and eewws, from the young watchers.

I know a thing or two about what goes on in the Elementary School System, where kids express or act out their crushes with classmates, or tell their friends, who often tease them about who they have a crush on. Unbeknownst to me, the teasing can grow into infatuation and feelings of love and desires for kissing their crush!

As I waited for “expert advice” from my friend, I decided to engage my six-year old into a “Let’s Talk About Sex, bebe”

Mom: “Do you know what sex is?”
6-yr-old: “Yes. When people lie on top of each other.”
Me ; [oh oh TMI -internal panic]. “Where did you see that?”
6-yr: “On TV, one of the shows. Even Simba had Nala [in The Lion King.] They loved each other and made a baby.”
Me. “Uhm! But the people you saw on TV were not young, right? They are adults who are married or living together?”
6-yr: “Yes. But some kids also talk about sex [coyly answered]. Even my classmates.”

Overwhelmed, I could not run away from the talk anymore. I had to break the ‘innocence’ to protect the ‘innocence’. Does that even make sense?

I told him it is normal for pees pees of young boys to young boys to get hard. I let him know that, it is ok to have feelings for girls. It means we appreciate others.
I asked, “Does she feel the same about you? Does she want to be your boyfriend?”
“She did not say that to me,” he responded

I told him, “It is important to be careful because if the girls does not feel the same, she could tell her mother and her mother may not like it. Then she would tell the teacher, and you might get in trouble. I might also get in trouble for exposing you to movies or TV that have sex.”

I went on, “Plus, you are still too young to focus too much on sex and loving a girl. You have many years to go. You should wait until you are an adult, then you can get married and have a wife and then you can start engaging in sex. It is a huge responsibility for a six-year old like you.”

Yes, I mentioned that some young boys have sex with girls, get them pregnant and then have to take are of them. So, they drop out of school to start working for their family. Sometimes it does not work out, and if they cannot afford to take care of their family, they could be sent to jail. 

At that moment, I realized that he was scared. “I won’t talk about sex anymore,” he told me.
“It is ok to tell me how you feel,” I said. In fact I am glad that you told me, that means you trust me. But don’t think about sex too much. You are still young.” 
Another thought occurred to me, to ask him how he feels about each of the girls who were in his Kindergarten class. 

Ki- I don’t really like her because she cares a lot about fashion, make up, and sometimes she is mean. She also likes to sit next to K all the time
Vi – She gets in trouble so much. Other people, Q, A and E say mean things to her like, she has sludge on her hands (the things you have in the nose) 
Bri and Eli- They have too much braids! 
H – She’s kind of shy, like Jac
Ab – Her eyes look big when she has glasses on
Gr – She’s kind of weird. Sometimes, with her right eye, she’s looking left, and with her left eye she’s looking right
Ch – She’s mean. Remember when you were teaching in my class, and she was being mean to some people!
Ln – Too much K! She always wants to sit next to K. I sit with all my best friends, A, J, V, E, But she wants to sit only next to K.
K – She’s a good person, she’s good in school, beautiful, stylish and nice 

Then, I suggested that we check the internet for guidance, “What to do when your six-year old has crush?”

We read all info together. Most of the information we found reiterated what I had told him: that all young boys experience erections; they also get infatuated with girls. But I also learned that it is important not to make your child feel guilty about their feelings, and not make them feel it is wrong to share how they feel with you.  It was good for him to hear a written opinion from the authority even kids like him know, “Google”.
http://www.steadyhealth.com/topics/erections-in-young-boys-is-it-normal

Moreover, my “expert teacher/guidance counselor” wrote back to reassure me that the body is taking charge, and he has no way of controlling it. He told me it is good to let him know that it is natural for an erection to happen when he gets the butterflies, but he should keep his private part private. Like me, my “Expert teacher” agrees it is great my six-year old trusts me enough to confide in me.” 

There you have it! How I dread this story happening to me, with my seven-year old! That one day, he will come to me, crying about his crushes, at this tender age. I would want to tell him, you still have all the way to college before you start worrying about girls. You should wait until you get married.

Interestingly, last weekend, COM asked me, “how does one pick the girl they wish to marry. How do they decide on the one?” I had to tell him about meeting somebody, getting to know them, their family and friends, and treating them nice. Then you can ask the person, if they will marry you?

“Then, how do you meet the people who you went to Elementary school with, when you are grown?”

Sometimes, people keep in touch. That is, keep communicating. Sometimes we lose contact. Many people do not marry the people they new from elementary school, but meet people in other places like college, work, gym, community, on the bus or train.”
“Once you are married, I continued, then you can have sex with your partner and have children, if you like.” [I hope against hope that he would not ask me, but why did you and daddy have me without being married…]

Just as I was getting to pat myself on the back, he told me, “Mommy, I know you can be married and still not have sex.”
“Really? Why? I asked.
“Co’s dad and mom do not have sex,” came his response
“How do you know?” I am getting freaked out.
“Co told me!” COM says.

Oh well! It is really about time we have the “BIG TALK”. One of these days, I will sit down COM And tell him, “Let’s Talk About Sex, Bebe”

The Joys and Pangs of Being a Single Parent and Black…..

Time and again, reality check strikes me that I am Black and a single parent, in a sea of Whites and Marrieds. I have felt both the joys, and pangs of being Black or a single parent, even when I am the ‘token’ in the group. It happens where I reside, in my travels, social engagements and networks, and at community events.

Not that I am blaming anybody for my “black-single parent status”; it is the story of my life! Particularly now that I am a parent of a child – a single parent. That reality set in during the recent Child of Mine (COM)’s Cub Scout Pack #85 2015 Annual Weekend Camping at Knoebels Amusement Resort and Campground in Elysburg, PA.

I love social living, I love involving my child in social activities, taking him places and engaging him in educational experiences. Joining the Cub Scout was my way of introducing him to civic responsibility and good citizenship at a young age. Moreover, as a woman and a single parent, I cannot give him all the lessons on “Becoming a Man”; so I need the help that the Boy Scouts of America can provide him. Plus, as the only child, he benefits greatly from broadening his social networks, meeting new friends and interacting with little boys his age. Plus, mommy gets a break from being the “sole playmate”.

In most cases, I do not let “being the only black family or single parent” keep us away from partaking of the many fun activities Pack#85 organizes. I take him to as many activities that his Cub Scout Pack organizes, hiking, Day Camp, baseball games, Veterans Day and Flag Day celebrations, and most recently, the annual Pack Weekend Camping Trip. I am very aware of my single parenthood at most of his Pack events, where I am visibly the only single parent. Most non-custodial parents of other cubs show up to Pack meetings, and not many single parents participate in Pack outings. At least at Pack meetings, I do not stand out alone because there are usually two or three Black families in addition to us.

This past weekend Camping at Knoebels was an “In Your Face, You’re Black Moment”. Walking through campsites to the bathroom, that strange feeling of “Blackness in a sea of Whiteness” engulfed me. I wondered whether anybody was looking over their shoulder seeing me going through their campsite. While I love to wear my hood sometimes, I could not risk being mistaken for a “dangerous trespasser” and getting shot at in “self-defense”. The simple things others may take for granted, I was self-aware and highly cautious.

Because I barely saw any full Black families on campground. The ones I saw had white spouses and mixed race children. In a sea of whiteness I wondered, where are all the Black people that love to do “white people stuff” – Don’t say you have not heard that saying before, that “Black people don’t hike, don’t camp, don’t do crazy adventures.” I wondered, is it really true? I bet there were some Black families, but there are over 500 campsites, and I was only exposed to a small section.

In my camping group, I was the only single parent among seven other families, in addition to being the only black family I saw on ground. Don’t get me wrong, I have my joys of being a single parent – that I can make decisions without the encumbrance of a disagreeing non-supportive other parent, in my case. But there are also pangs of single parenting, especially the absence of an extra helpful hand, a male figure for this male COM, or a companion for myself. I am always making these lonesome trips and activities with COM.

The pangs of single parenthood struck me for a minute over Scout Camping Weekend, among couples and their children. While I was solely responsible for COM – preparing him meals, making the bed, taking him to shower and bathroom and taking him onto weekend entertainment, none of the other parents! I watched with longing the unspoken/automated division of responsibilities between husband and wife or father and mother, as well as the children.

Time for dinner or breakfast, the women/wives/mothers in our group dived into the kitchen, prepared pancakes, eggs, sausage, toast, and all for their families/husbands/fathers of their children. Time to erect or put down tents, the men, unquestioningly took on their responsibilities like pros, ensuring everyone had a place to sleep. Yours truly benefited from the Camp organizers’ teenage son, a Boy Scout, who offered to erect and bring down our tent. Fathers and sons also worked together to carry the heavy stuff and stepped up as men should.

Note to self: Don’t believe the “equality hype” western white feminists preached, that men and women in marital relations equally share family and household chores. Equality is not Sameness. True, fathers and husbands have stepped up from the days when they did not babysit. However, the gendered division of labor still exists, even here in America, my America.

Men are still the predominant breadwinners, and women nurture the children and take care of the household [expectedly]. Husbands do the heavy lifting, repairs and chores around the house, women produce the food out of the kitchen, feed the children, put them to sleep, prepare them for school, attend PTO meetings and chauffeur them from school to after-school programs.

Before you start claiming such couples are ’traditionalist in their marital relations’, without [advanced] formal education, plenty of the women I know, as mothers and wives, have graduate degrees. They simply quit working away from their homes, or quit paid work all together to focus on running their families and homes. Such decisions are as much a luxury, as they are a sacrifice, for the best interests of their children. After all, employers are not making it so attractive for mothers to stay at work and ably raise their young children, without offering great benefits packages for maternity leave, vacation, personal days off, child care or health insurance packages.

The kind of security and harmonious relationship I watch among Cub Scout couples gives me a kind of nostalgia for finding a good committed relationship for myself, which may not necessarily lead to marriage. I am not saying this kind of harmonious, secure relationship is only found among white couples; I am simply citing the white couples who predominate my Cub Scout’s Pack. It feels good to see couples providing unconditional and unsolicited support to each other, in the traditional way. In such moments, it is hard being the strong Black woman and single parents I have to be each day. I just wish to be loved and pampered. But the work continues!